Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Mark Twain at work

I love these two glimpses into Sam Clemens' relaxed way of working. Both are taken from notes to the online collection of letters at the Mark Twain Project.

Mr. Clemens was a believer in personal comfort while at work. On hot days in particular he cast aside formalities—and a considerable portion of his clothing as well. At the outset he bought a comfortable lounging chair with a writing board hinged on to the arm, and it was no infrequent sight during the summer to find him nestled cosily in that chair, a pipe in his mouth and only a negligee shirt, trousers and socks in evidence as costume. His collar and shoes would most likely be in a waste basket and his hat, coat and waistcoat wherever they chanced to land when he cast them off. 
(Earl D. Berry, 1869)

Mark Twain relaxing
And there was Mark Twain in a little back room, with a sheet-iron stove, a dirty, musty carpet of the cheapest description, a bed, and two or three common chairs. The little drum stove was full of ashes, running over on the zinc sheet; the bed seemed to be unmade for a week, the slops had not been carried out for a fortnight, the room was foul with tobacco smoke, the floor, dirty enough to begin with, was littered with newspapers, from which Twain had cut his letters. Then there were hundreds of pieces of torn manuscripts which had been written and then rejected by the author. A dozen pipes were about the apartment—on the wash-stand, on the mantel, on the writing table, on the chairs—everywhere that room could be found. And there was tobacco, and tobacco everywhere. One thing, there were no flies. The smoke killed them, and I am now surprised the smoke did not kill me too. Twain would not let a servant come into his room. He would strip down his suspenders (his coat and vest, of course, being off) and walk back and forward in slippers in his little room and swear and smoke the whole day long. Of course, at times he would work, and when he did work it was like a steam engine at full head...
(from “How ‘Innocents Abroad’ Was Written,” New York Evening Post, 20 Jan 1883)

[The Case of the Deadly Desperados features the 26-year-old reporter Sam Clemens who will soon take the nom de plume Mark Twain. This Western Mystery for kids aged 9 - 90 is available in hardbackKindle and audio download. It will be published by Putnam & Sons in the USA in February.]

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